In one of the largest smuggling scams ever uncovered, 29 people were charged for sneaking goods into the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey, the Huffington Post is reporting. Two groups that operated primarily out of China smuggled such counterfeit items as UGG boots and cigarettes worth more than $300 million, as federal agents secretly watched.
The groups are also accused of smuggling counterfeit Nike sneakers; Burberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Coach handbags; and other clothing items. Three defendants are also charged with conspiring to import 50 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.
Twenty-three of the suspects have been arrested, which were a result of a tip received by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Virginia. Police are still searching for the other six. They face such charges as conspiracy, trafficking in counterfeit goods, evading financial reporting requirements, money laundering and importing methamphetamine. The drug charges alone carry maximum punishments of life in prison.
Unsealed indictments state the items were produced in China, and then were shipped to the U.S. in boxes that were deliberately mislabeled to keep shipping costs down. After being shipped through the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the goods were taken to warehouses in the area. Co-conspirators would remove generic outer labels to expose the counterfeit brand labels. The goods were then sold to wholesale and retail outlets.
Written by: Karen Benardello